Decline in Marriage Among African Americans, The

Decline in Marriage Among African Americans, The: Causes, Consequences, and Policy Implications

M. Belinda Tucker
Claudia Mitchell-Kernan
Copyright Date: 1995
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 424
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/9781610445375
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  • Book Info
    Decline in Marriage Among African Americans, The
    Book Description:

    In a time when the American family has undergone dramatic evolution, change among African Americans has been particularly rapid and acute. African Americans now marry later than any other major ethnic group, and while in earlier decades nearly 95 percent of black women eventually married, today 30 percent are expected to remain single. The black divorcee rate has increased nearly five-fold over the last thirty years, and is double the rate of the general population. The result, according toThe Decline in Marriage Among African Americans, is a greater share of family responsibilities being borne by women, an increased vulnerability to poverty and violence, and an erosion of community ties.

    The original, often controversial, research presented in this book links marital decline to a pivotal drop in the pool of marriageable black males. Increased joblessness has robbed many black men of their economic viability, rendering them not only less desirable as mates, but also less inclined to take on the responsibility of marriage. Higher death rates resulting from disease, poor health care, and violent crime, as well as evergrowing incarceration rates, have further depleted the male population. Editors M. Belinda Tucker and Claudia Mitchell-Kernan and the contributors take a hard look at the effects of chronic economic instability and cultural attitudes toward the male role as family provider. Their cogent historical analyses suggest that the influence of external circumstances over marriage preferences stems in large part from the profoundly damaging experience of slavery.

    This book firmly positions declining marriage within an ominous cycle of economic and social erosion. The authors propose policies for relieving the problems associated the changing marital behavior, focusing on support for single parent families, public education, and increased employment for African American men.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-537-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    M. Belinda Tucker and Claudia Mitchell-Kernan
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xvii-xxiv)

    By the mid-1980s, it had become apparent that patterns of family formation in the United States had undergone quite dramatic changes. During the previous two decades, the divorce rate had nearly tripled, the percentage of children living in single-parent homes had doubled, being married by one’s early twenties was no longer normative for women, and the proportion of families being headed by women alone increased by over 50 percent. Some predicted that marriage would become less likely for American women in general. The family formation changes that took place between 1960 and 1980 were the most substantial of this century...

  6. SECTION ONE SOCIOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL CONTEXT
    • 1 TRENDS IN AFRICAN AMERICAN FAMILY FORMATION: A THEORETICAL AND STATISTICAL OVERVIEW
      (pp. 3-26)
      M. Belinda Tucker and Claudia Mitchell-Kernan

      African American family formation patterns have been the subject of modern scholarship and debate for nearly one full century. Beginning with Du Bois’s (1899, 1908) landmark studies of the black community in Philadelphia, social scientific inquiry has variously considered black families as adaptive, resilient, deviant, pathological, culturally distinctive, African retentive, and “just like yours.” The particular form of the debate, and the direction of the research, have often been shaped by the politics of the moment—as evidenced by the reaction to Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s (1967) now infamous “report” on the Negro family and the recent response to the “family...

    • 2 BLACK FAMILY STRUCTURE IN COLONIAL AND ANTEBELLUM VIRGINIA: AMENDING THE REVISIONIST PERSPECTIVE
      (pp. 27-56)
      Brenda E. Stevenson

      Beginning more than twenty years ago, a number of prominent American historians sought to explain certain aspects of the black experience in the United States through a descriptive analysis of the development, survival, and function of the African American family.¹ Inspired by a sociopolitical movement that began to attain national prominence during the 1950s and that continued to capture public attention through the early 1970s, scholars were challenged to review this country’s past for possible solutions to contemporary issues. Central to these issues were problems of racial injustice historically embedded in the notion that racial difference implied cultural inferiority or...

  7. SECTION TWO SOCIOLOGICAL ANTECEDENTS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MARITAL PATTERNS
    • 3 THE EFFECT OF EMPLOYMENT ON MARRIAGE AMONG BLACK MALES IN INNER-CITY CHICAGO
      (pp. 59-102)
      Mark Testa, Marilyn Krogh and Sheldon Danziger

      Aprominent explanation for the declining level of marriages among blacks is the growing joblessness of black males. A long literature in sociology links rates of marital disruption (divorce, separation, and desertion) with the inability of fathers to provide stable financial support to their families (Moynihan, 1965; Scanzoni, 1982). Recent writings hypothesize a similar link between male joblessness and never-married parenthood (Cherlin, 1981; Wilson, 1987). Although initial evidence for these relationships appeared mixed (Lerman, 1989), recent empirical investigations demonstrate a robust association between male employment and marriage (Ellwood and Rodda, 1990; Fossett and Kiecolt, 1993; Lichter, LeClere, and McLaughlin, 1991; Lichter...

    • 4 THE WIDENING GAP BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITE MARRIAGE RATES: CONTEXT AND IMPLICATIONS
      (pp. 103-120)
      Robert Schoen and David M. Heer

      Marriage rates in the United States, and in a number of other Western countries, have been declining for some time. Among American women born around 1940, whose marriages were concentrated in the years 1960–65, 97.3 percent of those surviving to age 15 married, and their average age at first marriage was 21.1 years (Schoen et al., 1985). However, rates in the United States observed in 1983 imply that only 89.7 percent of those surviving to age 15 will ever marry, and their average age at first marriage will be 24.5 years (Schoen, 1987).

      Declines in marriage have been particularly...

    • 5 MATE AVAILABILITY AND MARRIAGE AMONG AFRICAN AMERICANS: AGGREGATE- AND INDIVIDUAL-LEVEL ANALYSES
      (pp. 121-142)
      K. Jill Kiecolt, Mark A. Fossett and A. Wade Smith

      The impact of the availability of potential mates on family formation and family structure among African Americans is receiving increasing attention. Recent theories (Guttentag and Secord, 1983; Heer and Grossbard-Schechtman, 1981) argue that the sex ratio, the number of men per hundred women, influences many aspects of male-female relations including marriage, divorce, fertility, sexual behavior, and gender roles. Supporting evidence is beginning to accumulate (Guttentag and Secord, 1983; South and Trent, 1988; South, 1988), and increasingly the sex ratio has been implicated as a determinant of black family formation and family structure (Cox, 1940; Darity and Myers, 1984; Guttentag and...

  8. SECTION THREE CONSEQUENCES AND CORRELATES OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MARITAL DECLINE
    • 6 MARITAL BEHAVIOR AND EXPECTATIONS: ETHNIC COMPARISONS OF ATTITUDINAL AND STRUCTURAL CORRELATES
      (pp. 145-176)
      M. Belinda Tucker, Claudia Mitchell-Kernan and James S. Jackson

      Recent dramatic changes in marital patterns in the United States generally, and among African Americans most particularly, have given rise to a renewed emphasis on the determinants of marital behavior and family formation more generally. As certain of the changes first became evident in the black population in the early 1960s, earlier discussions focused on the seemingly distinctive nature of African Ameican family organization, and included suggestions of “pathology” (e.g., Moynihan, 1967). Such a focus in effect shifted the research agenda of many to defense of the African American family rather than an empirical analysis of the roots of what...

    • 7 MARITAL INSTABILITY AMONG BLACK AND WHITE COUPLES IN EARLY MARRIAGE
      (pp. 177-228)
      Shirley Hatchett, Joseph Veroff, Elizabeth Douvan and Hector F. Myers

      Getting married and staying married may become relatively rare events among black Americans if current trends in family organization, and in the economic marginalization of young black men, continue. As a result of a trend which began at the end of World War II and gained momentum in the 1960s and 1970s, nearly half of all families among blacks are now headed by women (Farley and Allen, 1987). Although such households have also increased among whites (as documented in Chapter 1), the change has been more dramatic for blacks. The underlying dynamics of this trend suggest that the ceiling has...

    • 8 UNEMPLOYMENT AND IMBALANCED SEX RATIOS: RACE-SPECIFIC CONSEQUENCES FOR FAMILY STRUCTURE AND CRIME
      (pp. 229-260)
      Robert J. Sampson and Melvin L. Oliver

      Criminal violence and its relationship to structural features of the black underclass have been largely neglected in sociological research. As noted elsewhere (Wilson, 1984, 1987; Sampson, 1987), until recently there has been a general reluctance among social scientists to study behavior that could be construed as unflattering or stigmatizing to particular racial minorities. Indeed, the sharp criticisms aimed at scholars such as Rainwater (1966) and Moynihan (1965) in the 1960s led to a concentrated effort by liberal social scientists to insulate their work from the charge of racism or of “blaming the victim,” hence limiting racially disaggregated research. Moreover, the...

  9. SECTION FOUR PUBLIC POLICY AND AFRICAN AMERICAN FAMILY FORMATION
    • 9 FAMILY STRUCTURE AND THE MARGINALIZATION OF BLACK MEN: POLICY IMPLICATIONS
      (pp. 263-322)
      William A. Darity Jr., Samuel L. Myers Jr. and Phillip J. Bowman

      What are the causes and consequences of the decline in marriageable men in black communities? What are the implications for the future? In this chapter we argue that one of the statistical driving forces behind the recent rise in female family headship among African Americans is the reduction in the supply of marriageable mates. As fewer and fewer young black males make the transition from adolescence to adulthood—as a consequence of drugs, violent crime, incarceration, and eventual death—there will continue to be shortages of marriageable males. At least one of the central causes for the decline in two-parent...

    • 10 POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF A DECLINE IN MARRIAGE AMONG AFRICAN AMERICANS
      (pp. 323-344)
      Lynn C. Burbridge

      Making public policy is difficult. In the social policy arena, it often involves making assumptions about human behavior and trying to influence the behavior of people to achieve a given policy goal. But ill-conceived policies may be ineffective or even harmful, making extremely important the need for clarity about the problem being addressed and the repercussions of any excursion into the policy arena.

      In modern times, the decision to marry is usually a personal decision involving two individuals. There is no inherent reason to be concerned about it. Underlying the policy debates about declines in marriage and increases in female-headed...

    • 11 AFRICAN AMERICAN MARITAL TRENDS IN CONTEXT: TOWARD A SYNTHESIS
      (pp. 345-362)
      M. Belinda Tucker and Claudia Mitchell-Kernan

      As stated in our preface, the primary intent of this volume is to contribute substantively to the discussion of marital decline among African Americans by presenting empirical evidence from multiple perspectives. Readers of a volume such as this, however, are undoubtedly seeking a “bottom line.” Does the sampling of research presented here on this provocative topic produce any clear answers? On the whole, do these studies tell us where our energies should be focused, if we are to address the critical social problems that are inextricably linked to family formation and structure? Has this discussion revealed whether our concern with...

  10. INDEX
    (pp. 363-397)